Saturday, September 10, 2011

America Should Honor Her Troops by Bringing Them Home by John Nichols

The Nation On Memorial Day, America Should Honor Her Troops by Bringing Them Home by John Nichols
May 30, 2011

It is unfortunate but true that on this Memorial Day -- when we pause to honor those Americans who have fought the good fights against British colonialism, the sin of slavery and the menace of fascism -- U.S. troops are currently bogged down in a quagmire of George Bush's creation in Afghanistan and an continuing mission of Bush's creation in Iraq.

Appallingly, Barack Obama has maintained Bush's undeclared wars of occupation. And he has now steered the United States into another fight with Libya.

Everything about these undeclared and open-ended conflicts is at odds with the vision of the founders of the American experiment -- who generally shared James Madison's view that "permanent war" posed the greatest threat to liberty -- and the serious intent of wars against kings, slaveholders and fascists.

Soldiers fight wars because of a sense of duty. And the soldiers involved in America's current conflicts are good men and women. But these are not good fights.

Nor are their necessary fights for the U.S. military.

It is for this reason that veterans of these undeclared wars of whim have organized so well and wisely to end them, in groups such as Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is mounting a Memorial Day campaign to highlight the wrongheaded practice of deploying traumatized troops, and the currently organizing Afghanistan Veterans Against the War project.
There are arguments to be made, some of them sound, some of them not, that people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have reasons to be fighting. But the fights are their own -- not America's.

John Quincy Adams summed the sentiment up 190 years ago when, in an address to Congress, the then-Secretary of State declared that: "[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace."

"If the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity," explained Adams. "She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."

The cynicism of the previous administration, which was led by a president whose family pulled strings to keep him out of the Vietnam War and a vice president who dodged the draft five times during that conflict, was beyond contempt. But so, too, is the cynicism of many Democrats who, despite their disdain for the failed foreign policies of Bush and Cheney, continue to echo the empty rhetoric of the administration when it comes to the debate about how best to end the war.
The best way to "support the troops" who have been placed in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is to bring them home.

Congress considered the prospect last week and more than 200 members of the House voted for a proposal to begin taking steps to exit Afghanistan. Unfortunately, a few more members opposed that necessary step.

The growing opposition to the misguided mission in Afghanistan, as well as the clear opposition to any expansion of the Libya mission, is the encouraging news of this Memorial Day.
America is growing weary of endless war.

Wars of whim, fought without proper congressional declaration and without exit strategies, are not fights for democracy.

Fights for democracy can only be considered successful when American democracy is open and vibrant enough to allow for a realistic discussion of the nation's circumstance. Those "my-country-right-or-wrong" politicians and pundits who would shut down dissent on Memorial Day, or any other day, make a mockery of the oath to defend a constitution that protects the right to speak truth to power and to assemble for the purpose of petitioning for the redress of grievances.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's Vietnam War-era counsel to Americans holds true this Memorial Day.

Americans who love their country and its promise must move beyond "the prophesying of smooth patriotism" toward "a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history."
No honest reading of the history of America's founding, or of recent events, can led to a conclusion that the undeclared wars of the moment are justified.

Americans have fought and died in pursuit of what they -- and most Americans -- believed to be noble and necessary causes. It is right to celebrate their memory. But is right, as well, to recognize that not all wars are noble and necessary.

Making the distinction between wars that are unavoidable and wars that should have been avoided (and that can now be ended) honors all veterans and all soldiers, as does a recognition that it is time to begin establishing practices and policies that err on the side of making peace -- as opposed to endless conflict.

That's a message that Michael McPhearson, the former executive director of Veterans for Peace and a co-convener of United for Peace and Justice brings to the table this Memorial Day.
"To truly honor fallen soldiers requires self-reflection, questions and action," says the veteran who served as a field artillery officer in the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the first Gulf War. "We must reflect on our part in their deaths. Are we allowing the blood of soldiers and civilians to be spilled in war because we are not willing to do the hard work of peace making? Hard work that may mean we must change our lifestyles, consume less and learn more about the world around us. Are we prepared to take any responsibility for our nation’s relationships with other countries? Are we willing to question our government's foreign policies and demand a change from domination to collaboration? Are we willing to take action to change ourselves so that our personal behavior and attitude reflects peace making rather than acceptance of war?"

Americans will have plenty of answers to those questions. But the first ought to be that, on this Memorial Day, the time has come to honor the troops by bringing them home.
© 2011 The Nation

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols' other books include: Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.
more John Nichols

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I am rereading the exchange we had when you thought I was pregnant. I am laughing so hard (at me) because I had just briefly woken up when I initially read that you were praying for me. When I'm that tired my brain functions at pretty low levels...and to top it off...I'm a classic ADD...hence, my response:

I'm not sure about the child womb at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church. We go to a church out here. Tell me about the one you mean, of what's happening there.

To which you responded, and that I am giggling so hard right now, I have tremors:

"well, hell, you're pregnant, right? so ... got to pray for more than just you ... is my point ... oops, forgot the other guy, the father guy - will remember him next time."

That is classic!!

The patriot's prayer

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, over 300 journalists have been killed, more than in any other war.

Heavenly Father, we pray that you will send your angels to protect those independent journalists who cover and report on the atrocities of war. They are targets of the U.S. military, because they are dangerous truth seekers, unafraid to speak truth to power; unafraid to report the war crimes that are invariably committed when the U.S. decides it needs to go to war to protect or expand the financial / power / political agendas of this nation's elites. It is these people, who would accumulate capital for the mere sake of capital's accumulation, who gain from war, and no other class of people does. Father we know that in WWII, 50% of the casualties were civilians; in Vietnam, 70%; in the Iraq Invasion, 90%. Father, we weep for these lives of your beloved children. Give us strength, Dear God, to become instruments of your peace. Give us the courage to march, even unto death, to put an end to the wars waged by the most savage nation on earth, our own country. Give us this courage, and shield the civilians, this we ask, Oh Lord, in the Name of Your Son Jesus Christ, who suffered death that we all might live, if it be Thy will. AMEN.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eeek! I'm a book hoarder!

Patti Shanaberg: Eeek! I'm a book hoarder! I can't seem to get rid of useless books!

Pam English: I have nursing school books from 1990...I'm afraid to toss them.

Erika A. Burch: You guys are funny! Donate them!!

Ginny Rankin: If they're progressive or at all liberal (or maybe selacious), give them to Sarah Palin. I'm sure she'd arrange a big book-burning. Michelle Bachmann would probably help you out, too.

Patti Shanaberg: If only they would READ them! lol @Erika - where to donate?

Erika A. Burch: Women's shelters and Retirement homes, prison's and Goodwill. Women's shelters also like nail polish (that isn't thick and stringy) and anything else that a woman in need could use to make her feel better. I buy LOT'S of books from Goodwil...See More

Erika A. Burch: I used to keep all my books. I LOVE books. LOVE LOVE LOVE them. But how many books does a person need? Some books that I am partial to I keep. Years ago in my apartment laundry room I put about 50 books in there with a nice sign that said "Please read me and then return me. And if you have any books you don't want, add them." Within 2 weeks there was one heck of a little library there.

Patti Shanaberg: You mean I can't sell or donate my 1970's college text books?! LOL Thanks - yes, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a thing for books. I figured I could find plenty of places to donate them (not my text books, just kidding about thosebut I have PLENTY of others) just hadn't decided where yet. And I'm so pathetically attached to the dumbest things! I just threw out 10 boxes of old canceled checks from over 10 years ago. I can't believed I moved here from LA with all of those!!!

Drew Bourne: give them to the VA, they usually collect books to send to our troops.
I finally started selling some of them on Amazon. Those that are in abundance and lowest price is less than it's worth go to Goodwill, Library, Nursing Homes, etc. Textbooks (current) sell FAST and for almost if not more than what I paid (I buy used when available).

Erika A. Burch: Good to know, Rebecca!!!

Mark Ganzer: Even the most useless of books can be used for toilet paper, in a pinch!

Anne Alberts: I am a cook book hoarder! I love them and have collected them from all over the world. I only use about 10 of them all the time. The rest are in boxes in the attic. I haven't seen them in three years and I use the Internet for recipes all the time. Why can't I just let them go? Do they have meetings for this? LOL

Mark Ganzer: The only things I possess are (1) my clothes (2) my vinyl records (3) my books (4) my golf clubs (5) my golf balls (6) my golf tees (7) 150 decks of playing cards (8) four duplicate bridge bidding boxes ... and OUT!

Mark Ganzer: I'd give up the vinyle, the clothes, the golf crap, the cards / bridge crappola in a heart beat, or New York Minute .. but NEVER the books ... NEVER!!
Anne Alberts I am a cook book hoarder! I love them and have collected them from all over the world. I only use about 10 of them all the time. The rest are in boxes in the attic. I haven't seen them in three years and I use the Internet for recipes all the time. Why can't I just let them go? Do they have meetings for this? LOL

Mark Ganzer: The tactile feel of them - HELL ... I can't get a woman nor a dog to bed me down, but I've read books, magazines (not just Playboy and Hustler), newspapers that have put me to sleep and SOMETIMES, when the writing is real damn good - keep me up and excited all night long!

Patti Shanaberg: I'm in the midst of loading up books, books and more books to donate as I type - so many old favorites - really good rich literature - then I come to "Men are from Mars; Women Are from Venus" and "Rules" and more of that genre - WHATEVER POSSESSED ME???!!! Then I pull out "Smart Women Stupid Books" (a parody of the same type of book called "Smart Women Stupid Choices") - ahh - a moment of clarity! The sad thing is I'm barely making room on my book shelves for all the books piled up on the floor. I wasn't kidding - I'm a book hoarder! EEEK!

Going to court (again) tomorrow

The Lutheran Church of the Atonement, Barrington, IL has had 4 senior pastors: Arthur Knudsen who was sent to answer the call from the original five founding families - the Willits, the Bowens, and I can't remember the others, in 1963. In 1964, the church cornerstone was lain, and one of Barrington's two most unique architectural structures constructed (the other being the home built in the tree in North Barrington) - the Lutheran Church of the Sat Down Upon (or Ark), as I called it.

The most stunning thing to me has been that of the three white, American male senior pastors, two have been so unfit for the post - one, Marcus Gravdahl was fired for sexually harassing congregants and subordinates, and for not paying his Federal Income Taxes for 8 years running.

An assistant pastor, Pastor Randy, was fired for non-performance of the duties assigned to him by the senior pastor. Randy felt that his ministry was a 40-hour per week gigue to the youths only.

Pastor Said Ailabouni was assigned to be Marcus Gravdahl's assistant, but, as events transpired, within six months Said was the senior pastor, and served brilliantly for 15 years. He left Atonement to accept an ELCA offer to be pastor to the pastors of the ELCA in the Middle East and Africa - being a Palestinian (born in Nazareth) and an Arabic speaker, it was a natural fit, but his decision to accept was prompted in no small part because he did not want to have to deal with firing Pastor Randy.

That job fell on the shoulders of Don Wink, who came with a mandate to straighten up the Randy situation, and start a third service featuring contemporary Christian music. My bother-in-law, Michael, the man of all seasons and many talents was the leader of the bands for 10 years. My sister sang, and my son still drums witn one of the three praise band teams! Three Praise Band Teams, all with about 10 players.

In March of 2007, I e-mailed Pastor Don to take me off the church membership rolls. This he did not do (non-feasance). Hi non-feasance directly resulted in his subsequently denying me access to Sunday worship services (I sang too high, and talked with the praise team setting up), including Easter Sunday, of this year. He subcontracted the job of kicking my sweet ass out on Easter Sunday to Pastor Paul, and I left with no harsh words, telling Pastor Paul that I held him no animosity. I have always abided by Don's wishes. Pastor Paul duly reported to my mother that he had been told by Pastor Don that I would not be permitted to attend Easter Worship (I would served as an usher at St. Anne Roman Catholic Church in town later that morning - wondering what it is that they don't know about me that let's them let me volunteer to be of service?)

My mother told Pastor Paul, "That's not fair."

And for this reason, I did not want Pastor Don to officiate the celebration of her life. I called my dad to ask him to not ask Pastor Don - "already asked, this can't be changed, things are moving too fast," said dad, 96 hours in advance of the memorial service.

I called pastor Don to ask that he not officiate, "The family already asked me," he said.

ALL RIGHT ... NOW, I am pissed. I called my sister, "Gay, could you please ask dad to reconsider having another pastor officiate mom's celebration?" "We already ask ...

And I hung up, exhausted, having slept 3 of the last 72 hours, updated F/B sent e-mails to 500+ people, having put together my thoughts for what the service should be, as well as the obituary ... or at least rough working drafts of the same, and I broke down weeping.

I dialed 9-1-1 and the Grayslake EMT delivered me to Condell Meorial Hospital (one of the worst in the area) emergency room, where, in front of a shrink, and hooked to an IV, I threatened to kill Pastor Don.

A while later a social worker interviewed me, and asked if I still wanted to kill pastor don. I had changed my mind, "No," I said, "I want to kill his family."

Enter the psych ward --- ROFLMFAO!!

Staying 11 days -- missing mom's wake, the memorial (which I would not ave attended with jagoff officiating).

Later, I see my personal physician, and the conversation about Wink the Twink arises, and I tell Jim, "Why in the world would I ever want to return to Atonment? NO ONE, not one member of my family, nor one of the congregants, some of whom I have known for 47 years ever complained to Pastor Don about his whimsical discrimination against me (a 60-year old, mentally ill, totally disabled, Muslim)!"

"I'll talk to Don tomorrow," says Jim.

And two days later, the Cook County Sheriff police hits me up with an order of protection ordering me to stay at least 500 feet away from Wink the Twink, and his family.

But, at least, NOW, I know where he lives (was too lazy to look it up).

And so, will have to come within 500 feet of him tomorrow, BECAUSE the stupid ball buster filed the fucking order.

Am fairly delighted with the prospect!

issued two prayer requests at my new home church, asking them to pray for Don for insight and understanding.

But, I forgot what a wimply coward he has turned out to be!

And so, THAT is why I pray for him for courage!

I wonder what prayers he is praying for me?

Monday, September 5, 2011

From Kathleen Harris - One of God's Holy Warriors

Wishing You...Peace, Love and Joy . . . Always and Forever August 30, 2011
As has probably been mentioned by someone or other, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) can be a bit like unknowingly entering and blithely traversing a psychic mine field.

Let's see if I can make that a bit more vivid.

It may have to do with the time space continuum in a way. If I come off sounding like I am trying to describe a Magritte surrealist painting to a person who is only familiar with Andy Warhol's creations, I apologize. If that is necessary. To me, a PTSD-affected spiritual landscape is one that has become fraught with subterranean camouflaged pot holes, automobile-swallowing ditches and incendiary devices. And perhaps there are also some pathways that seem like they should be familiar or that used to have clear sign posts now seem to lead to unsuspected destinations and undesirable locations.


Uh-oh. Have I already lost you?

Or maybe you would rather not continue on the journey with me. If so, I understand.

No harm, no foul.

But these images have been lurking in my consciousness lately, and just tonight I realized why.

The pot holes, mine fields, and deceptive pathways minus familiar sign posts are triggered by the anniversaries of traumatic events or time periods. Even if I go out of my way not to be in touch with the fact that the anniversaries are coming up or upon me, my psyche never forgets. So it's just that the end of August and the beginning of September are times when a lot of exciting and/or traumatic things happened to me.

The even stranger thing is that there are not necessarily uniform ways of experiencing whatever comes up from the underground or appears along a pathway. And the image of mine fields may give you the impression that there is a stark flat plain stretching in all directions when actually there also might be dark forests, or even jungles . . . and/or the mysteries of a deep and wide open ocean.

Often the PTSD episode triggers become evident when I find myself awake all night for one or more nights in a row or several over a short period of time. At first I may tell myself that there is no reason not to be able to sleep, but I am always trying to fool myself when I say that. It is more likely that sleep is elusive because there is no desire to enter into the level of consciousness that leaves me open to the dream state.

Or maybe something from the nocturnal musings of the days leading up to the sleepless nights has already broadcast warnings about the approach to the mine field. Be that as it may, once I really do get back connected with the date, I am forced to confront the reality. Addressing that reality head on does not necessarily help much, however.

That reminds me of the old Air Force saying that begins a lot of war stories. The stories start with: "There I was . . . flying along fat dumb and happy. . . " The story continues with whatever was horrendous, terrifying, difficult and/or shocking, but somehow the storyteller survives.

I guess one of the reasons that things are traumatic is that they come out of nowhere and are so shocking and disturbing that you really can't get your mind around them.


I agree with the sentiment expressed by Robin Williams when he said:

"Reality . . . what a concept!"

Even though it may be that some sort of past reality intrudes on contemporary life, the PTSD episode always seems to be more powerful than whatever is going on in the present. Or maybe it's just that whatever the present reality is cannot quite compete with the past "reality." And the traumatic memories can be so vivid that they can tend to make the present reality seem to fade away into the background.

Or even to disappear.

And even more than that sometimes the imagination interjects itself into the memories and the present reality so that there are stacked levels of elements surrounding and enhancing memories, musings, illusions and allegories.

Probably not much of that is really making any of this any clearer, is it?

When I am able to talk to friends who were involved in the trauma I find it helpful, but I also realize then that none of us experienced what happened in the same way. What happened affected and continues to affect (or doesn't continue to affect) each one of us in various ways.

Of course.

How could it be otherwise? Each of us is a distinct individual with a variety of distinct personalities and experiences.

Our lives intersected with one another for that particular time or times and we came to those points from different places and went our separate ways to reconnect with one another again possibly one on one . . . or with several of us or with some of us. Or never again with most or even all of us. At least not yet. or maybe not ever on this terrestrial plane.

As a case in point, not long ago I saw some Armed Forces Television Network dramatizations concerning two soldiers who were wounded in the recent past. They both suffered from PTSD. One was given a chance to talk about the trauma with professional counselors from the earliest time of his physical recovery. The other soldier did not have a chance to communicate with anyone about what had happened to him until a long while after he was released back into civilian life. Each was able to get help, but the latter suffered more and for a longer length of time. Go figure!

Seeing the segments aimed at encouraging military members who have been affected by PTSD to seek help as soon as possible was encouraging since so many veterans are being added to the roles.

And I recently saw the movie "Random Harvest" again, too. (Have you ever watched it? Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman are marvelous in the story about the effects of battle fatigue on a British soldier in WW I.) So even though the term PTSD had not been coined back in the early 20th century, I was reminded that people have been suffering with the condition from way back. (No doubt as long as man's inhumanity to men has been extant.)

There are ways to put the memories to rest and to keep the ghosts at bay.

But actually sometimes I look forward to being with my dearly departed once more. They are all loving and kindly spirits even if they are just as I have imagined them. Or remembered them.

There are times that seem overloaded with intertwining layers of memories because there were different traumatic experiences that happened at the same time of the year -- or even on certain particular dates of multiple years, so that somehow the PTSD trash compactor has smooshed them all together and it's difficult to discern which presenting traumatic memories come from where. Or when.

There also might be organic or atmospheric or astronomical (or other) factors involved in the fertilizing compost heaped up in my psyche. And too much digging around into all that would not be really helpful anyway, no doubt.

But the traumas are not necessarily all negative. Sometimes great joys can trigger recurring disturbances, too. Both positive and negative emotions can be draining, energizing or enervating. Not sure I can always choose which one of those at any particular time.

Because certainly to begin with . . . in my earliest memories the joys of getting to go back to school every Tuesday after Labor Day were fraught with excitement. And tension. And anticipation. So onto those layers of emotional memories were added the adult traumatic adventures that happened to have occurred around the same time.

For instance last year when over 200 of the members of our high school class got together for the first time in ten, twenty, thirty or forty years (or all of the above, or even more or less often), there was a special kind of traumatic experience.

In a good way.

But it reminded me of the other groups of friends I had gone through stuff with when I was on active duty in the Air Force. And when I was at Seminary. And when I was serving churches.

Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. (As the King of Siam was quoted as saying in "The King and I.")

Know what I mean?

Well, even if you don't, by writing this I seem to have diffused the most powerful psychic mines in my way tonight, and I seem to have recovered the sign posts on some of the obscured pathways.

So thanks for hanging in there with me as I wandered around trying to explain it all to you.

That was a big help!

And God bless us, every one.

As ever -- Kathy

Be Blessed

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

Matthew 5:3-9